If Ye Break Faith

This blog is dedicated to the promotion of educating about the Canadian experience of World War One. To discover who we are as a nation in the 21st Century, we must understand our past.

Thursday, 23 June 2011

The Empire Called to Arms

People are reading my posts, that much is certain.  Some have been very kind in offering advice and moral support.  It's also been made clear to me that my solicitations for donated funding, since I'm unable to make assurances of how these funds would go towards the production of the printed works, will be difficult or impossible to realize.  For those of you who do not know me, my name is Christopher Harvie, an enthusiastic self taught historian with no academic credentials and no previous publication experience.  So, I can understand why folks would be shy to part with donations to a cause someone such as myself is championing.  The corollary is that this is my passion, and the only work to which I wish to dedicate myself.  I may never get it to the point where I can make it a professional endeavor as is my goal, simply put, but as this is work I feel called to do, I will continue to do it as long as I am able.

That being said, support for this project, moral or otherwise can be made through  the PayPal "Donate" button below, at IndieGoGo, by joining the Facebook Page,  by following the twitter feed or this blog itself.  Comments and questions can be directed here.

The problem with a study in history is that everything is done in hindsight, with knowledge that those who went through the events in question may not have had.  What this does is leave a lot of leeway in the interpretation of the past.  History, though is a fairly linear subject summed up succinctly by three questions:  What happened, how did it happen, what was the effect of it happening?  It is, of course rarely as simple as that, but those three questions serve as a good guideline to examine what has occurred.

With regards to the First World War, an objective study is hard to come by.  the commonly held perceptions are taken not from the war itself but from the sense of disillusionment coming afterward from writers and poets wishing to divorce themselves of the notion of romance which occurred at the onset of the war.  from these popularly held notions comes the idea that World War One was an avoidable waste.  With hindsight it is easy to see how conflict could have been avoided or at least contained.  If Serbia had acquiesced to Austria's demands following the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand (which was impossible anyway as the concessions Austria required were designed to be rejected) the war may not have happened.  If Russia and Germany had not mobilised their armies to support their respective allies, the ensuing conflict may have been contained to the Balkans, not drawing in the rest of Europe.  But to paraphrase Ben Elton's "Blackadder" TV series, "It was too much bloody bother not to have a war."  Gordon Corrigan, in his book "Mud Blood and Poppycock", which I cannot recommend highly enough, states that all the major players had geographic, economic and political ends to be met by going to war, and the circumstances leading to the war were ripe for the belligerents to achieve their goals.  It is not whether or not the war was avoidable based on a series of "if's", the fact remains that it did happen.  

Where does Canada fit in to how the Great War began?  The circumstances of the onset of war being what they were, with Great Britain being drawn in ostensibly to protect Belgian neutrality, but in actuality to protect its own interests on the continent (mainly having to do with the balance of power between them and Germany), Canada was automatically involved.  At the time, a Dominion of the Empire, Canada was far less autonomous than perhaps imaginable today so that when Britain was at war, Canada was too.  Even accounting for all the "if's" that really can't be accounted for, in our country's case the war was most definitely not avoidable.

Canada's participation in the war, however, allowed our tiny country to gain recognition on the world stage and was our first real step into international affairs.  Despite the loss and hardships caused by the war, the end result was the emergence of what would become, before the 20th Century was out, the best country in the world.  Which is yet another reason why we continue to remember those that gave their lives, perhaps not so much for the reasons for which they fought but more so the benefit our nation has gained because they fought.

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